Introduction: The proverb “lebitla la mosadi ke bogadi” (‘a woman’s grave is at the place/home of her husband’) is used as a language tool during premarital counselling to instruct African women on the value of marriage and to encourage married women to stay in their marriages. However, some African proverbs which are commonly used to define the marital relationship between men and women appear to be gender-biased and focus more on women only therefore perpetuating ill-health, discrimination and oppression.
Objectives: The objectives of the study were to explore and describe the meaning and interpretations of the proverb “lebitla la mosadi ke bogadi”, the implications of the proverb as experienced by the indigenous African women on their health, and to describe the study’s theoretical framework and the analogy of the proverb based on the study findings.
Methods: Hermeneutic phenomenological methods and a qualitative research design and methods were used to achieve the study objectives. Gadamer’s hermeneutic circle was also used to understand and interpret the meaning of the proverb. The study population consisted of indigenous African women who were selected using snowball and purposive sampling methods. A total number of 57 married, divorced, widowed and, on their request, single women who were attending social clubs/networks in the City of Tshwane and Johannesburg in Gauteng, South Africa were included in the study. Data were collected by means of five individual and eight focus group interviews and field notes were taken. Colaizzi’s data analysis method was used. Findings: Four themes namely, patriarchy, aspects of trapped women, stress and awareness and nine sub-themes emerged and these were supported by literature. A framework based on Wittmann-Price theory of emancipated decision-making and Masenya’s (bosadi) womanhood approach was developed. The hut and the sun were used analogically to understand the meaning and interpretations of the proverb.
Conclusion: The study concluded some women asserted the proverb “lebitla la mosadi ke bogadi” brought positive reinforcement and sanctity to their marriages. While other women asserted the proverb had negative implications on their health. Recommendations for the nurses, education and for indigenous African women have been clearly described.